Sunday, February 05, 2012

The Four-fecta?

Trifecta originates from horse racing and it means to correctly bet on who comes in first, second and third. The term has also been taken over by sports generally to denote succeeding at something on three consecutive attempts. Personally I like the term “Hat-trick”, which means the same thing as trifecta, because it just has a more jaunty air. In any case, last night I was selected for Wasatch straight out of the draw and didn’t have to use my potential as a Grand Slam runner to get in. This year you had a 71% chance of being drawn for Wasatch but I still take it as a good omen that I was drawn “naturally”.

The draw for Wasatch completes the four lucky circumstances required to become an official Grand Slam aspirant; get drawn for Western States, register for Vermont and Leadville before they close, which is always a moving target, and then get drawn for Wasatch. I had no idea that Vermont sold out so fast because I’ve never looked at it before. I’m still on a quest to finish several of the 100 mile mountain races in the Western U.S. That goal used to be ALL the 100s in the West but with the growth of the sport I have to draw the line otherwise I’ll never get to some of the Midwest and east coast runs I’ve wanted to do: Mohican, Superior Sawtooth, Pinhoti or the Georgia Jewel, Kettle Moraine, Grindstone and the list goes on. So many races, so little time.

In any case, when I was drawn for Western States I immediately went to register for Vermont just in case and there were only 25 slots left! I then scrambled over to the Leadville website and registered for it and it closed about a week and a half later with 850 runners! I wonder if anyone has the pull, and if it would make sense, to have a lottery for the Grand Slam and if you were drawn you could get into all four races, kind of like a Golden Ticket. It would undoubtedly be controversial.
Now that I am officially entered into all these races the real hat trick begins. I have to 1) successfully stay in shape and lose weight while I’m injured, 2) heal quickly and 3) still have time to put in some solid mountain miles before Western States.

I am now in week three of my injury and as far as staying in shape and losing weight I can obviously count my calories, which I have been doing religiously, and I am down about 3 pounds but it is maddeningly slow. However, I entered this year already within a couple pounds of my usual racing weight so I’m not all that concerned on that front but as far as the fitness thing goes, well, that is more worrisome. At this point I have discovered I can swim, use any type of elliptical trainer or similar machine, use any stair climbing machine, climb stairs, swim, walk and now I can finally hike in the foothills. Today I’ll see if I can tolerate hiking up a mountain trail, just part way, just a test. I can also to things like pushups and various core exercises. I suspect I can do P90X stuff, which has been suggested but which I’ve never done so I’m not really sure what it’s like. Yoga has also been suggested so maybe I’ll look at some classes at out gym and see if I can fit them in.

I know with all this I can maintain a certain level of cardiovascular fitness but the pounding your body has to learn to take is not happening and the endurance, well, I don’t see doing 5 hours on an elliptical trainer, stair master or any combination of the above. My hope is that I’ll be able to do the mountain hiking. If I can do that I should be good through, god forbid, the end of March. After that I’m looking at training just to survive Western States with the hope that I can continue to increase my fitness between then, Vermont and Leadville so that I’ll be ready for Leadville and Wasatch. Oh, I have logged my trail hiking as “running” in BT simply because it is good time on the feet, which is critical in ultrarunning. I’m not actually running.

The healing, well, who knows how that’s going. I went to see a chiropractor a week ago Friday and he did a lot of good. He adjusted my hips and low back, which felt amazing and sounded like a tree branch snapping. He then did some electro stimulation and trigger point massage to try and take care of the muscles he thought had probably spasmed. I’m not sure what may have helped the most but all I know is that after seeing him I was able to walk again at a normal pace without a severe limp and for longer than 20 or 30 minutes. I see him again twice this coming week as well as a pain specialist.

As good as the chiropractor is I’m just not sure it will get me where I need to be, which is running, hence the pain specialist. I did attempt to run this last Wednesday, just very easy on flat dirt trail at about a 12:30 pace. It took about 50 yards before I could tell it was going to be a problem and sure enough I had increased pain for the next three days. I continue to take a startling amount of ibuprofen, diclofinac and now, on occasion, some Tylenol with codeine. The hope is that the pain specialist will discover that this is an injury that can be treated with a shot of cortisone into the SI joint. Quite honestly, I’d even be happy to discover that I had a fracture of some bone down there because that has a very easy and time-limited healing process. I still hold out some hope that it may be that. Fresh fractures, I have learned, don’t show up on x-rays very well if at all. It’s only fractures that are healing that show due to the line of calcification.
In my quest for a cure I did run across, and then research, Platelet Rich Plasma shots, more commonly referred to as PRP shots. At first it sounded like the ticket to a rapid recovery but after extensive research in the actual medical literature not in the more common Muscle and Fitness, Pumped, or Runningguyatblogspotdotcom type of “literature” I discovered that the shots were, at best, equivocal. They seem to work well at speeding the healing of acute traumatic injuries that are intentionally caused like cutting a rat’s tendon so you could study the effect of injecting Platelet Rich Plasma, or using it to speed healing in humans who have just undergone plastic surgery or a jaw reconstruction, which is what it was originally used for in the medical world. I also learned that the first doctor who used PRP shots to heal overuse injuries in athletes was recently arrested for mixing Human Growth Hormone (HGH) into his PRP shots. Of course HGH is a banned substance. Oh, one final bit, I learned that they go for about $1000 per shot so Tiger Woods, an athlete who has used PRP shots which is why their popularity skyrocketed and exploded onto the amateur athlete scene, can afford to get them regardless of whether or not they work. Hell, if I had Tiger’s bank I’d spend $1000 a pop just in the hopes of getting a decent placebo effect.

Number three, having enough time once I heal to put in some good mountain miles before Western States. All I can say is that in 2010 when I was preparing for Leadville I suffered a nasty fall running down the side of a particularly gnarly section of the foothills and got myself a nice, painful bone bruise. This pretty much took me out of any serious training for a month and that injury happened in April. By the time May rolled around I was able to slog through the Jemez mountain 50K though I felt crazy unstable on the mountain trails, and by the first or second weekend in June I PRd at the Run the Caldera marathon by over 40 minutes. When Leadville rolled around, actually a good month before that, I was in the best mountain running shape of my life.

I do hold out hope. I keep telling myself it’s early in the season, very early. I have a huge base. I think I’ve put in 2500 running miles give or take a few per year for the past three years and when I am able to train I train hard and have actually gotten pretty good at squeezing the maximum out of myself without injury. What I have observed is that my injuries, except for a freak fall, always occur during the winter months of December, January or February, when for some reason I feel the need to ramp up my mileage and training intensity. This puts me in the cold and dark running mostly on roads or on snow and ice.

Maybe next season I will have finally learned my lesson.